Wednesday, September 26, 2007

We are Turtles

"Men are like turtles."

There was a pause. Although the comment was axiomatic, self-evident, I wanted him to elaborate. I wanted him to come out of his shell.

He explained, "We would rather stick our heads in and not talk. It's difficult to get us to come out and open up."

This was how the discussion began on the second night of our men's retreat. Such pithy comments may be excuses or threats. He meant it as an observation.

We can be quiet. Reserved. Proud. Independent. We can be competitive, afraid of intimacy, uncooperative. These are the attributes that surfaced--the reptilian faces that emerged.

But they emerged with a grin, because men are great at laughter and play. They like to watch toy boats sink and float. They like to watch RISK armies fall, flags get captured, and drumsticks turn to bone in the hands of their most festive eaters.

And then, when they're far enough from shore, having followed the wake of shared experience long enough, they might share a thing or two. I just hope we don't have to wait until next year's retreat to hear more. Because more than turtles, we are RELATIONAL.

Monday, September 17, 2007

There's Water, Why Not?

The baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch reads like a parable for our post-modern culture. Riding solo in the back of his SUV, the royal slave is listening to religious poetry on his MP3, bobbing his head to the beat. He knew the tune was spiritual, which was the nature of his journey, but he couldn't decode its truth.

He needed explanation and got it from Philip, who explained everything--through narrative, not dogma. "Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture, he preached Jesus to him" (8:35).

The eunuch lowered the volume and keyed in. He listened, hungry for meaning. And when he saw water, he asked the question, "Why not get baptized?" He had the anti-lock breaks slammed, and he and Philip rushed from the vehicle.

The royal servant wanted to validate his knowledge with experience. Immediately. True religion is more than principle, it is expression (Jas 1:27). But when there's too great a pause, expression becomes performance.

Yesterday I performed my first baptism since becoming a pastor. Four youth from the church had decided to obey the ordinance. Their relationship with Jesus began long ago, but their decision for baptism had been stalled by a gap in pastors, lack of planning, and busy summer schedules. These are excuses of the modern church.

We are in a different era. Spiritually curious people may not be patient for the performance. Fortunately, in the greater Warsaw area there are lakes everywhere.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Delaware GBC Weekend Retreat

Over Labor Day weekend I attended a four-day retreat, and I'm still recovering. I was the speaker for DelawareGBC youth, bringing Jesus before their eyes. Before the first message, my sinuses were suffering cockpit pressure. By the second message, my voice had departed. Fortunately there was a microphone.

High school retreats comprise a fascinating sub-category of youth ministry. They are relationally intensive and emotionally sensitive, rivaling only Steve Fee's worship band in its spiritual effect. By the end of the weekend, everyone loved everyone else; every represented high school was on the Tipping Point of the next Great Awakening; and everyone who was previously uncertain about his previous spiritual commitments was pushed through womb of conversion one more time.

Truly, it was a beautiful thing.

Now they are home. God be with them!